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AddisFerengi returns as Ethiopia's blogosphere explodes

AddisFerengi, one of Ethiopia's most controversial bloggers, was back in business this week with a load of back-dated posts, after temporarily shutting herself down and leaving the country amid claims of threats and warnings over her safety.

The French citizen and now former resident of Addis Ababa told her whole story to Ethiopian Politics, which published the resulting interview as one of the country's first podcasts (MP3 – 18mins 16 secs).

The interview was greeted by stalwart blogger Ethiopundit in The Adventures of Addis Ferengi & the Desperate Dance for Donors:

She states at one point that before her expulsion she was the only free voice in the country. She is right. Think about it – not only has the government totally taken over or banned all Ethiopian free press it has jailed journalists and charged them with crimes punishable by death…

Except for Anna Gomez [the head of the European Union's monitoring mission at last year's Ethiopian elections who was critical of the current government], this blogger is the first ferenji [foreigner] to so GET and so articulate what this government is all about. Actually … let us qualify that statement … we think thousands of ferenjis living and passing through do GET it all very well but a host of political & personal interests, very low expectations and professional complicity with the government keep them quiet.

Weichegud ET Politics joined in with How, um, NOT to silence the ET Blogverse, noticing one silver lining around the dark cloud over AddisFerengi's departure:

Most of us have been frustrated by the lack of Ethiopian bloggers from Ethiopia, and all of a sudden the Ethiopian government deports/orders to leave/makes thuggish gestures towards ‘Addis Ferenjie’, an anonymous European blogger in Addis Abeba, and whachu got? A veritable home grown ET blogging outbreak.

At the beginning of the year, Satisify My Soul (Ego) was the sole native ‘abesha’ regularly having his say from the home country.

Then the floodgates opened. Urael was the newest arrival on the shared platform offered by Nazret.com.

In Roadblocks, s/he gave an eyewitness account of worrying disruptions to the build-up to this weekend's celebration of Ethiopian Orthodox Easter:

There was a huge traffic-jam on the ring road near the Imperial hotel round-about Wednesday evening. New federali tactics were the cause. Addis Ababa has become one step further to a police state. Every car approaching the Imperial hotel round-about was stopped, I had to step out. They did a body check on me while two others searched my car. No questions were asked. Because of this exercise traffic between Bole airport up until the Imperial hotel came to a standstill.

Thursday evening the same procedure in the middle of Kasanchis. Traffic police smiling a bit about the jam and Federali checking cars at random. I don't know if at other places the same things happened. The roadblock near Kaliti is still in function a friend told me.

Seminawork appeared in late March with a handful of well-placed political sources. In Muluneh on hunger strike, he published a scan of a letter, apparently smuggled out of prison from one of the jailed opposition politicians.

Adebabay turned up at around the same time with a mix of contentious spiritual and state politics.

CoffeeChilliSun is an Addis Ababan who first came on to the online scene in January. She fought her way through a bad cold to give her own blood-and-guts account of the build up to the Easter feast in Oh Chicken!:

in the run up to the good-humoured (…) butchering of sheep, chicken, goat and cattle one of the most pressing issue here in Ethiopia is: To eat or not to eat chicken? News on State Media is that so long as you cook all poultry products thoroughly you should not fear Avian Flu, however, not many have the economic power to spend another 40ETB on fuelwood to fizz up in our thin air. People are concerned about the contamination from the blood and other fluids to open cuts obtained during butchering. Plus of course there is the Ethiopian belief about the vapours and nasty smells that arise from the environment, including dead chicken, that could give you the flu. Meanwhile the price of sheep has gone up to 500 to 800ETB, Cattle have gone up to 3000 to 4200ETB.

Putting all the newcomers to one side, the prize for blog post of the fortnight was shared by two established names, the first an American in Ethiopia, the second an Ethiopian in America.

Things We Should Have Written Down described a rare drive out of Addis Ababa in Fleas before flowers:

We chugged and bumped our way west, out of Addis, towards the flower farm. The streets became less crowded and fields of green emerged as we careened around hairpin turns. It was only my second time outside the polluted capital city in seven months. I rolled down the window and closed my eyes. Then a massive truck roared past us at 80 mph, spewing stones and exhaust. Alongside the one-lane highway was a demolished truck, one of many signs of accidents we would see on our drive. That the entire cab of the vehicle was crushed did not seem to deter the truck that had passed us from continuing to speed; the driver was just then rounding a bend at a breakneck pace, leaving no room for oncoming traffic.

Weichegud ET Politics remembered her grandfather in You think this is progress:

There were two things my grandfather used to find intolerable whenever he visited us in the US : people who ate and walked in public; and Ethiopians of the Orthodox faith who didn’t go to church. He had to be physically restrained on his last visit to DC after seeing an Ethiopian youngster sporting a Lalibela T-shirt and walking down U Street eating pizza… and talking on a cell phone.

“You people think this is progress,” my sisters told me he hissed. “This is backwardness.”

Sounds about right.

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